The Dutch Government says it wants to prepare a comprehensive proposal to restrict all uses of PFAS and all products containing them. The proposal is backed by countries such as Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Norway, as well as the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
The issue is discussed at the EU Council meeting today after a joint briefing note was submitted by the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Luxembourg. The briefing note referred back to the Council Conclusions from earlier this year and the need for the EU Commission to “develop an action plan to eliminate all non-essential uses of PFAS”.
“We need to use all legal possibilities to move forward and deal with the problem of PFAS as a matter of urgency. The proposed restriction from the Netherlands is especially welcome since it tackles PFAS chemicals as a group. This is necessary to speed up legislation as well as to avoid regrettable substitution”, comments Dr. Anna Lennquist, Senior Toxicologist at ChemSec.
PFAS are a large group of substances known for their water, grease and dirt repelling properties and have been used since the 1950s’ in applications such as fire-fighting foam, non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing and food packaging.
“We need to deal with the problem of PFAS as a matter of urgency”
They are, however, also associated with several negative health effects such as lowered birth weights, cancer, reduced sperm quality, attention deficit disorder and negative effects on the immune system. This is especially concerning since the substances are both extremely persistent and take forever to break down while also being bio-accumulative, meaning they build up in tissue.
The briefing note says there is “a clear need to phase out PFAS in the EU” and suggests a comprehensive restriction of more than 4,700 poly- and perfluorinated substances in all uses and products except for those that are deemed essential.
“It’s very important that the concept of essential use is extremely narrow, because we have seen over and over again that authorities tend to accept industry´s view of what use is necessary”, says Dr. Lennquist.
The briefing note also makes reference to the GenX substances that were created as an alternative to the widely criticised PFAS chemical PFOA. These substances are not bio-accumulative, which means they have so far escaped regulation. They are, however, highly mobile in the environment, making them extremely difficult to control.
“Another important step is for the Candidate List to include more chemicals that are persistent, mobile and toxic (PMT), as we have done for the latest SIN List update. These should be regarded as equally problematic as the bio-accumulative PFAS”, Dr. Lennquist concludes.